It should be patently obvious to the most casual observer, but in perusing social and “Conservative” media common sense seems to be dying on the Right in order to join the Left which long ago abandoned such virtue in the name of political power and expediency. The Trump apologists in these forums compare Trump to Bush, McCain, or Romney and shout “hypocrisy!” while asserting as fact that the same anti-Trump sources caved on principles to unify behind the GOP candidate. However, this argument is seriously flawed.
Firstly, because those moderate Republicans were opposed for their lack of Conservative principles and policies. When President Bush tried to push through an amnesty program for illegals, Conservative leaders and everyday voters rose up en masse to melt the DC phone lines, confront their Congressmen, and stop the Bush amnesty plan. Conservative radio hosts, who now vigorously push Trump, opposed McCain with equal vigor back in 2008 as he faced criticisms over “the ideological, and what you might call the “characterological.” Ben Shapiro in particular has drawn fire for his opposition to Trump, but back in 2012 he also criticized the party and electorate for “nominating the most left-wing Republican in the field.”
Secondly, and most importantly, there was common ground upon which compromise could be reached and party unity achieved with previous flawed candidates. And not simply policy compromise; one pushed a big government healthcare solution but preaches federalism, another wants to expand this government program but talked about shrinking that program, etc. Before the mechanics of WHERE to compromise can be determined, you first need a philosophical framework so you know HOW to compromise. With these previous, weakly Conservative candidates, each had a political philosophy which could be articulated and understood. You might find the Bush family view on political service to be aristocratic, but at least it’s a solid stance which allows you to view the terrain and determine where the common ground lays. In contrast, what is Donald Trump’s political philosophy?
Is a link really necessary? Parsing down Trump’s rhetoric of the general and specific, it’s clear what his political philosophy is: winning. To be clear, winning for him. Personally. Trump talks ad nauseam about his success, how great he is at making deals, how smart he is at business and in general, and how much he’s going to win.
Why is this a problem? Again, it should be obvious, but let’s explore. In one of the seminal books on the mind of the Left, Godless, Ann Coulter makes the case that the Leftist movement is an irrational, mob movement. While Conservatism is the heir of the American Revolution, the Left are the direct descendants of the French Revolution. This is clear even today simply by comparing the contemporary popular uprisings of the Tea Party versus Occupy. Moreover, mob movements tend to coalesce around a cult of personality and frame all arguments around a charismatic leader, which explains why attacks from the Left are so often personal and why their substantive arguments, such that they are, tend to involve citing a person on the Right who agrees with them as if that ipso facto ends the debate. In contrast, Conservatism is supposed to be about logic, reason, and ideas. Or, as Mark Levin wrote,
“Like the Founders, the Conservative also recognizes in society a harmony of interests, as Adam Smith put it, and rules of cooperation that have developed through generations of human experience and collective reasoning that promote the better of the individual and society. This is characterized as ordered liberty, the social contract, or the civil society.
In the civil society, a rule of law, which is just, known, and predictable, and applied equally albeit imperfectly, provides the governing framework for and restraints on the polity, thereby nurturing the civil society and serving as a check against the arbitrary use and, hence, abuse, of power.
For the Conservative, the civil society has as its highest purpose its preservation and improvement.
The Modern Liberal believes in the supremacy of the state, thereby rejecting the principles of the Declaration and the order of the civil society, in whole or part. For the Modern Liberal, the individual’s imperfection and personal pursuits impede the objective of a utopian state. In this, Modern Liberalism promotes what French historian Alexis de Tocqueville described as a soft tyranny, which becomes increasingly more oppressive, potentially leading to a hard tyranny (some form of totalitarianism).”
Meanwhile, Trump’s own spokeswoman says, “It is hard to understand what his policies are because Trump has actually not thought through his policies. He says what is in his gut at that moment, what’s on his mind at that moment, and then we have to fill in the blanks after the fact.” Without question, Trump is not Conservative. And not on a specific policy level as with previous nominees, but his entire personal and political philosophy is a rejection of the very concept. Or as Mark Levin puts it in Ameritopia,
“The Mastermind is driven by his own boundless conceit and delusional aspirations, which he self-identifies as a noble calling. He alone is uniquely qualified to carry out this mission. He is, in his own mind, a savior of mankind, if only man will bend to his own will. Such can be the addiction of power. It can be an irrationally egoistic and absurdly frivolous passion that engulfs even sensible people. In this, mastermind suffers from a psychosis of sorts and endeavors to substitute his own ambitions for the individual ambitions of millions of people.”
For so many of the Conservative media, elected leaders, and rank and file is to reject the intellectual foundation on which the battles of the last years have been waged. This abandonment of principles is evident in exit polling which shows a majority of GOP primary voters reject core tenets of Trump’s campaign yet vote for him anyway. Having rejected policy and principle, the primary argument of the pro-Trump crowd becomes personal, falling back on his own cult of personality, to declare we must vote for Trump to stop Hillary who would be worse; though this is by no means certain, and there are rational arguments for how Trump would be an even greater disaster for the Conservative movement in particular and the country as a whole. Yet instead of having these rational debates, the pro-Trump movement smears the critics and demand everyone unify, for the sake of unity itself, around a man whose pronouncements cannot be trusted and whose rhetoric, personality, and actions bear eerie similarities to the pragmatic authoritarianism of Obama’s administration, which, depressingly, matches Levin’s description of those who follow the mastermind:
“There are also those who delusively if not enthusiastically surrender their liberty for the mastermind’s false promises of human and societal perfectibility. He hooks them with financial bribes in the form of ‘entitlements.’ And he makes incredible claims about indefectible health, safety, educational, and environmental policies, the success of which is to be measured not in the here and now but in the distant future.
For these reasons and more, some become fanatics for the cause. They take to the streets and, ironically, demand their own demise as they protest against their own self-determination and for ever more autocracy and authoritarianism. When they vote, they vote to enchain not only their fellow citizens but, unwittingly, themselves”
Thus, the opposition to Trump is, as Bobby Jindal puts it, an attempt to “preserve a remnant of the conservative movement and its credibility, which can then serve as a foundation for renewal.” Yet this attempt is fatally flawed for two key reasons. First, as Jindal illustrates in his op-ed, within the movement itself many are willing to accept Trump “warts and all” in order to stop Hillary; and, thus, without a clearly defined leader and third option, many are going to willingly destroy their and the movement’s “credibility” in order to get a win. Secondly, and more importantly, on a broader scale there can be no credibility preserved when Trump has become synonymous with Conservatism. Rightly or wrongly, the Republican Party is seen as the Right, the Conservative party. The presidential nominee of a party is the leader and spokesperson for said party. Therefore, Trump, as the leader of the Republican party, speaks for the Conservative movement, at least in the minds of the media of much of the populace, from now until November and even beyond if no strong political leader rises up to take the reins. Thus, Conservatism is no longer about free markets, it is now protectionist. Conservatism is no longer about federalism and individualism, it is now universal care. Conservatism is no longer about limiting the burden and power of government on the taxpayer, it is now about fairness. The nomination of Donald Trump will destroy the work of half a century of hard fought ideological battles.